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Indonesia buys Qatari Mirage jets to plug fighter gap

MELBOURNE, Australia — Indonesia has confirmed it signed a contract this year to buy Qatar’s fleet of French-built fighter jets in an effort to plug a long-standing air defense gap.

The Indonesian Air Force said in a news release it had signed a $795.14 million contract in January to buy the Qatar Emiri Air Force’s fleet of 12 Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters. The Middle Eastern nation operates a fleet of nine, single-seat Mirage 2000-5EDA aircraft and three, twin-seat Mirage 2000-5DDA aircraft.

The contract was signed with Czech company Excalibur International, which will act as the go-between. Indonesia will use foreign loans to finance the deal.

According to the Indonesia Air Force, the contract includes 14 engines, three years of support services, ground support equipment, crew training and other support. Under the deal, the aircraft will be delivered within two years from the contract date.

Indonesia plans to station the Mirage 2000s at the Supadio air base at Pontianak on the west coast of the island of Kalimantan. The base, near the South China Sea, and home to the Air Force’s 1 Squadron, which operates the BAE Hawk 109 trainer and Hawk 209 light combat aircraft.

The statement noted the decision was made to acquire the Qatari jets as a stopgap measure following the retirement of Northrop Grumman F-5E/F Tiger II interceptors and the obsolescence of the Hawks.

“It is considered that the purchase of the ex-Qatari Air Force Mirage 2000-5 aircraft is the right step to meet the readiness requirements of the Indonesian Air Force,” the statement read.

Indonesia had also planned to buy Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker fighters but had to cancel that effort due to sanctions imposed on Russia. It instead turned to France, having signed a contract in early 2022 to acquire six of what is hoped to be an eventual 42 Dassault Rafale omnirole fighters. The first three Rafales will be delivered in 2026.

Indonesia is also negotiating the purchase of Boeing F-15EX Eagle fighters, with the AiF force revealing that it is discussing the letter of offer and acceptance with the U.S. government.

In addition to two squadrons of Hawks, Indonesia’s AiF force flies two squadrons of Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons and a squadron of Russian Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flanker fighters.

Under its minimum force requirements, the archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands seeks to have 10 fighter squadrons by 2024, a deadline it will likely miss.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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